The Dog of Bretten

The story of punishment for faithfulness comes from the Rhenish Palatinate, especially in Kraichgau, where an associated phrase is also popular: “It may happen to you, like the dog of Bretten.” In some area the story revolves around a fish, however moral is the same.

In the small town called Bretten lived a man who had a faithful dog. He trained the dog to serve him many ways. Not only it helped him at home, but also carried out tasks outside home. The man used to send it out to shops, giving it a basket in its mouth, in which the needed amount of money and a list of goods to be purchased were written. That way it brought meat and sausage from the butcher as well. Needless to say, the faithful dog never touched the meat. It was happy with meal its master gave.

However its protestant master committed a big mistake one day. He sent the dog on a Friday to a butcher who was catholic and strictly kept the fast. As the butcher saw in slip that a sausage was ordered, he grabbed the poor dog tight, cut off its tail and put it in the basket with a note: “Here goes your sausage!” The faithful dog, even though hurt and wounded, carried the basket faithfully through the alleys to the master’s home. It died after keeping the basket before him.  The whole city mourned its death. An image of a dog without tail was curved in a stone and placed above the city gate.

The dog without a tail in a monument in Bretten – credit Wikimedia commons

But another version of the story contradicts the moral. As per the other version, the unfaithful dog used to steal meat and sausages from the basket which it had to carry for its poor master. Finally a butcher caught it one day and punished it by cutting its tail.

Same story; two opposite versions teaching two different morals – first one is the peril of being too faithful and second one, punishment of betrayal. Which one should learn? Obviously that depends on one’s own discretion. But the monument in memory of the dog in the city of Britten points to the first version.

The Giant’s Blood-river

Between the town of Egeln and the village Westeregeln in Magdeburg, not far from the Hakels, there was a shallow water canal. The water is red here; and the local people call it the stream of Giant’s blood. 

The story goes like this: once upon a time one of the giants was being chased by another. Running fast to save own life, he crossed the river Elbe. But when he reached the area where now Egeln lies, he could place only one foot on the narrow ground, moreover could not lift the other foot enough to be able to hang from the tower-top of the old castle. He stumbled, tried to get up and crossed a few thousand foots in between, nevertheless finally collapsed.

His nose struck straight with a large boulder in Westeregeln in such a big force that his nasal bone was crushed. A steam of blood flowed and the red flow we see these days is the remains of that.

Reddish river? -picture credit Wikimedia Commons

We have another version of this story. That says that the giant lived in the area of ​​Westeregeln. He enjoyed playing between the mountains, jumping over the village and its small inhabitants and often indulged in this game. But one day he jumped and cut his big toe as it foot struck on the top of the tower. His blood sprang out of the wound in a thousand-foot arc to reach the pool below. Thus the never-ending stream of giant blood was created.

The Eye of the Needle in Bilefeld

At the Bilefeld Abbey, on the left hand side, next to the Harz road, a heavy stone-block stands noticeably on a high mountain. This has a long and narrow passage in its centre. All the farmhands of Nordhausen and the surrounding localities had to crawl through this thrice when they needed to go to the Harz-forest behind Bielefeld to bring fire-woods. Crossing this eye of the needle was cumbersome as well as act of bravery, needless to say. On top of that their comrades behind mercilessly torture them with whip-butts, while they crawled in and out.

If some of them did not want to endure that diversion, they had to liberate themselves from their masters in exchange of money. Farmhands were bonded surfs otherwise. The authorities had forbidden this custom several times, but even their prescribed punishment went in vain. The surfs who tried to avoid the custom of being hurt could not live peacefully with their own group members because others were not ready to accept their rejection of the custom anyway.

But how did the weird stone come their? We have a popular story here: a giant was travelling through this region once. He crossed miles before reaching behind Bilefeld. Coming here he felt that something was pricking him in the shoe. He took his shoes off to check and found a stone inside. He removed the stone and tossed that in the wind. It fell in the place of mountain where it is seen today. It became the eye of the needle.

Through these mountain holes towards the forest behind? – picture credit Wikimedia commons

A stone thrown by a giant and it’s turning a terrible route to cross an otherwise difficult mountain can be a story not so unusual but when people need to tolerate physical torture by own group member while crossing the route, it becomes uncommon.  Content wise a unique story to me; cannot remember any similar story from anywhere.

Throwing the Shirts

This incident happened in Coburg. The girls of the village, curious to know who would be their future lover, were sitting together in a room on Christmas Eve. They followed all mandatory customs religiously. They did not even forget to collect nine kinds of wood-pieces from the forest the day before. As midnight approached, they made a fire in the room and the first one took off her clothes. She threw her shirt out of the door, and chanted standing beside the fire:

“Here I am waiting absolutely naked,

If here comes my lover awaited –

And throws my shirt in my lap, elated! “

Within moments her shirt was thrown inside again. She could also see the face of the man who did throw it. She was happy – this man was truly the person whom she courted later. Seeing her to turn lucky, other girls also undressed one by one, stood naked beside the fire and chanted the same lines. Only thing they did not know was the art of throwing their shirts together wrapped in a cloak. The spirits could not find the exact one they were supposed to collect and throw back. They began to hop around aimlessly outside, roaring and grumbling, so much so that the girls were horrified. Finally the poor girls had to douse the fire and crawl to bed silently to remain unnoticed to the restless spirits. When the girls came out of the room in the morning, they discovered their shirts torn into thousands of small pieces – scattered in front of the door.

Greeting card with Christmas Devil Krampus by 1900 – credit: WIkimedia commons

We know of pagan tradition of decorating homes with branches of evergreen trees during winter solstice; also know how this tradition was maintained, somewhat in a modified way especially by German speaking people even after their conversion to Christianity. Anyway I couldn’t find information about the significance nine types of woods here – would be grateful if any reader can enlighten.

Second interesting idea is the “spirits” – seemingly evil, which appears on Christmas eve when shirts are not properly wrapped by adolescent girls waiting to be selected by potential husband. The Christmas evil Krampus and associated Krampuslauf was popular in Austria and Bavarian regions. Krampus was supposed to take bad children away in his basket; do not know the spirit in the story is similar to that.

The Wheel of Fortune

Twelve mercenaries returned from Ditmar war. They could not gain much from the war and hence, were little depressed. They were walking through the country-roads faint-hearted having no idea what they would have for food next day.  

On the way they met a gray-bearded short man. Greeting them he asked, “Where are you coming from? Where are you going?” The twelve men replied together, “From the battlefield and want to go where we can become rich, but could not find the place as yet.” The little gray-bearded man said, “The trick of being rich will be clear to you if you follow me; only don’t have a desire to have anything out of it.” The soldiers asked, “What is it you mean?” “It is called the Wheel of Fortune. It is under my control. The one I bring to the wheel learns fortunetelling and in course of time learn to dig treasure out of the earth using their knowledge. I will do this for you only on one condition – I will have the authority to select one from your group to place on the advantageous position on the wheel.”

Wheel of fortune: an woodcut by Albrecht Dürer 15th century: credit Wikimedia Commons

Now they wanted to know which one of them would be the fortunate one. The gray chap replied, “The one I am in the mood for! Anyway that I will decide later; do not know that in advance.” The mercenaries pondered long to decide whether they should accept the proposition or not. Finally they reached an unanimous conclusion, “Man must die once. We could die in the battle of Dietmar; or the devastating plague could have dragged us to hell long back. We survived all threats, and as long as we did, we dare to play the game with you. This is anyway much easier while it will hit us only once. So they joined together to submit themselves in the man’s hand, with the condition that he would take them to the Wheel of Fortune, and would offer one of them the opportunity to become fortunate.

The gray man led them to the wheel. Arriving at the spot where the gigantic wheel stood, they sat far away from each other, each one maintaining a distance of three cords from the next. However the old man forbade them not to look at one another as long as they were sitting on the wheel. Whoever does do that would break own neck. After they sat as instructed, the master seized the wheel with the cords tied with both his hands and feet, and began spinning until it went upside down, twelve hours in a row, and once every hour.

To them the world under them seemed as if clear water. Like it is seen through a mirror, they could see everything they intended, good or evil. When they saw people, they recognized them and knew each of their names. But above them it was like fire, as it burning pivots hung down.

They had endured twelve hours. The master of the Wheel of fortune singled out a delicate young man from the wheel, the son of a minister from Meissenwaar, and led him through the middle of the fire-flames. The eleven others did not know what had happened to them while they sank into a deep sleep as if intoxicated. They woke up after lying out in the open for several hours; found that the clothes on their bodies became brittle. The glowing heat they had to go through crumbled all their shirts. They got up to start walking once again with the fresh hope to find fortune and happiness. No, luck did not support them. They remained poor forever  spending the rest of their lives begging for bread at other people’s doorsteps.

The Maiden from Wilberg or The Best Treasure

Wild flowers Centaurea cyanus: credit Wikimedia commons

A peasant from Wehren near Höxter (town in NordRhine-Westphalia) went to the Amelungs mill to grind corn from his field. On the way back he wanted to take little rest near a cool pond. He was lying on the green grass when he saw a young lady coming towards him from Wilberg that lies opposite to Godelheim. Coming closer she requested, “Please bring me two buckets of water from the peak of the Willberg; you can expect a good reward for this.” He went to the peak of Wilberg and carried the water from there as she asked. She said, “Please come back at this hour tomorrow morning with a bunch of flowers from the bushes which shepherds from Osterberge wear on their hats.”

The next day the man visited a shepherd in Osterberg to get a bunch of flowers from him. The shepherd gave him one nice bunch, but only after many ardent requests. Glad receiving what he wanted, the peasant went back to the Willberg valley. He saw the young lady standing there. This time she led him to an iron door saying, “keep the flower-bunch in front of the castle-door.” He did what she said. And as soon as he did, the door opened. Both entered the hill-castle through the door.

There was a small cave inside which sat a little man at a table. His beard had grown so long that it touched the floor across the stone table. He was facing a large pile of treasure in front of the table looking like a mound. The elated shepherd kept his flowers on the table in without wasting time and began filling his pockets with gold coins from the pile.

The young lady was watching him silently. Now she said, “Do not forget the best!” The man looked around. He thought that the best meant a large and heavy chandelier studded with gemstones. But as he stepped towards that, a hand came out from under the table all on a sudden and slapped him on the face. The young lady was heard speaking again, “Do not forget the best!” However the man had nothing but the treasures in mind. He forgot the bunch of flowers by then.

Filling his pockets with as much of gold and gemstones as he could, he thought of leaving the space. The moment he stepped out of the iron-gate, it crashed terribly against him. Scared, he tried to unload everything he collected in the pockets. What did he see? All the treasures he picked up with so much of effort turned into pieces of papers. Now he remembered the bunch of wild flowers he left carelessly on the table. Finally he realized which best treasure he should have kept with him.

Saddened seeing the consequence of own foolish thought the man stepped towards his home downhill.

The Maiden of Staufenberg

On the Harz near Zorge, a Braunschweig village, lies the area named Staufenberg. It became Staufenburg after the castle was built. On a particular cliff on the mountain, there is an impression of a human foot. This was created by the footsteps of a daughter of the old castle owner.  She often stood here for long. This was her favourite spot from where she looked at the enchanting surrounding. The delighted little girl with curly golden hair is still visible on the cliff at times.

Burg Stauffenburg , bailey at the entry gate. Credit: Wikimedia commons

Stauffenburg is the ruin of a former hill-fort at Seesen-Münchehof in the district of Goslar in Lower Saxony. The first buildings of the castle were probably built in the 11th century by the Counts of Katlenburg. Over the centuries, it has been constantly rebuilt and rebuilt till they began demolishing it parts in 18th century for the construction of other buildings in the area. It was built to protect the Harz mining area as well as securing the Thuringian army road, which lies below the castle of Seesen from southeast along the Harz to Nordhausen. The first documentary mention of the name Stauffenburg is found in 1154 CE and the castle was then in the name of a ministerial family, which is mentioned in a document of Henry the Lion. This indirectly suggests the existence of the castle. Obvious that it changed hands several times through the ages. Which owner the story mentions? – We have no way to determine.

The Drowned Child

The story was first published in German National Newspaper 1796

They have lot many a tale to tell about water; also about the lakes, rivers and seas to which an innocent child has to be sacrificed each year. But the water-bodies did not turn any of those children into a corpse but threw them to the shore instantly, or a little late. True the bodies came out late at times, but even the last bone emerged floating after it sank till the innermost depth of the sea.

We have a story of a mother who had drowned her child in a lake. She kept on praying to the god and all the saints to return her at least the bones intact for the child’s funeral; and she waited in good faith in her pure heart.

The next storm brought the skull back to the shore and the following one, the body. After all the body parts reached the shore, the mother collected all the hands and feet and everything is a piece of cloth, tied them up and carried the bundle to the church. What a wonder! With her each stride, the bundle was becoming heavier.  

Finally as she reached the foot of the Alter, her child inside the pack began crying. She laid the bundle on the steps of the Alter; the child – safe and sound, showed up removing the cloth surprising everyone. Only one little finger of his tiny fingers was missing.

The mother went back to the shore later and searched carefully for the tiny finger-bone. Needless to say she found it there. The bone was preserved in the church among other relics.

The sailors and fishermen of Cüstin in the Neumark (Brandenburg) also spoke of an unknown force controlling the river Oder which claimed one innocent life every year as a sacrifice. Death came to the people for whom it was destined; rest came out of the turmoil alive. The city Halloren in Salle was especially afraid of Johannestag, the birthday of Saint John the Baptist. Sacrifice of an innocent life was predictable on this day.

Luckenwalde in Brandenburg. Die Stadtkirche St. Johannis am Markt . Credti:Wikimedia commons

What is the story of Saint John the Baptist? He was born of elderly parents; hence is associated to growth, health and fertility. If we consider the season of his birth, it is around the day of summer solstice which is regarded significant by local farmers for their livestock and crops. Local belief adopted a small, star-shaped yellow flower that blooms during this period as St. John’s word. Following an ancient Pagan tradition, large bonfires are lighted in the villages on the previous night to ward off the evil spirits who are responsible for carrying contagious diseases. These bonfires are usually arranged at the highest peak of the hill in the village. Farmers spread the ash in their fields with a belief that it would enhance the fertility of the soil. We don’t have a record of human sacrifice during this occasion here but similar kind of sacrifice was prevalent in many ancient cultures.

The story of drowning child in the water-bodies makes me remember Mahabharata story where incarnated river-goddess Ganga drowns her seven new-born babies in the river to release them from the curse of living a mortal life. We also know of the medieval era tradition of drowning new-born babies in Gangasagar. Difficult to determine if people in medieval era learnt superstitious beliefs from each other or many of the communities followed similar practices independently.

The Shepherd Boy met a Tiny Animal

An interesting story which mentions even the year!

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the year 1664, a young boy from Dresden took care of the herd of the village. One morning when he was taking his sheep for grazing, he spotted an unusual stone on the roadside. It was of moderate size, but it was jumping on the ground by itself. The curious boy stepped closer and looked at the stone. After sometime, he picked it up from the ground. As soon as he lifted the stone, a young meerkat hopped surprising him; then stood in front of the shepherd boy looking straight at him. Then it said in a human voice, “I was deported deep inside the ground, now you have brought me back to life. I will be happy to serve you now. Give me some work. I have to keep myself engaged. “

The flabbergasted boy somehow replied, “Well, you should help me to look after my sheep then.” Following his order, the tiny manlike animal guarded the flock like an expert shepherd till the evening.

In the evening, the boy was preparing to take the flock to the village. The meerkat said, “I want to go with you wherever you go.”

The boy replied without more ado, “I cannot take you to my house. I have a stepfather and several siblings. My father would beat me badly if I get another mouth to feed with me. Our home is too small to accommodate another person.”

“But you have accepted me once”, protested the ghostly creature, “if you do not want me for yourself, you have to keep me with someone else elsewhere.”

So the boy directed him to his childless neighbour’s house. The meerkat found a proper home there forever thereafter.  

The Den of the Dragon

Image credit: Wikimedia commons

The story comes from Switzerland but it has another version in Austria

In the canton of Bern, a cave near the city of Burgdorf, which is famous for its castle is called Drachenloch, in English – Dragon-cave. They say two giant dragons were found here long back before the castle was built.

According to the local legend, in the year 712, two brothers named Syntram and Beltram, whom others called Guntram and Waltram were the dukes of Lensburg. They came to this area to hunt and discovered the deserted forest on the top of the hills. In a cave there, lied a monstrous dragon which had desolated the entire area till far. It was probably starving as there was no other animal left in the forest. As soon as it noticed the humans, it jumped at them and instantly devoured Bertram, his younger brother, alive. Syntram however was able to defend himself. He charged at the dragon with indomitable courage. After a long fight, he finally defeated the wild creature. The giant’s big stomach was split – Beltram was still alive inside.

The two brothers now had a reason to immortalize their victory. They decided to build a castle here and constructed a chapel dedicated to Holy Margaretha on the spot where the dragon was killed. The story of their encounter with the dragon was inscribed on its wall.

Bubenried or the Marshland of the Boys

This is a story from Hessen region.

In the district of Gross-Bieberau there is a valley called Bubenried towards Ueberau. Locals did not go there at night as had fear meeting some hair-raising unknown there.

Eiserner Vorhang in Hessen : picture from Wikimedia commons

Long back, even before the days of war and famine broke out in the region, there lived two beggar boys. They took care of each other with much affection. Since they came to the valley, they always used to share their alms with each other. .

They had saved only a couple of sheet-metal coins those days, but the rich Schulz gave one to a poor soul so that he could share that with his spouse. Anyway they shared everything else well between them. So one afternoon after a hard days begging, returning their abode the boy took out the loaf of bread he earned from his sack. The smell of the fresh bread was so good that he held it close to his nose. He smelled it once, then twice and thrice – the sweet smell made him greedy. He no longer wanted to share it with the other boy, rather keep it to himself. He began eating it instantly.

The peace between them came to an end. That was the first time they quarreled, and from the words it came to scuffling and wrestling. None of them could dominate the other. Each one tore a pole from the pen to fight with each the other as if they were led by the evil spirit. After fighting long they fatally hit on each other’s head. Both died together. It was such a ferocious fight that even after three nights after the violent death of both, no leaf on any tree around that marshland dared moving – no bird sang in the valley. After their death they turned into monsters and staying there since then. You will hear them whimpering and whining once you go there.

Which war the story is talking about? Since 15th century the ownership of the region changed hands several times and hence might have seen many wars. IN recent history we know of 30 years war that took place in 18th century and at the end of which the region became part of Großherzogtum (Grand Duchy) Hessen.

The Christ of Wittenberg

They say that there was a magic picture of Christ in Wittenberg. It was a beautiful painting indeed, also had an amazing quality. It always showed a man one inch larger than his actual size whenever one looked at the picture standing in front – be the person of a large built or a small one.

Schlosskirche Wittenberg : picture credit Wikipedia commons

The Village at the Sea-side

A Story from Holstein

A holy man walked to the shore, looked at the sky and went on praying. As it was the Sunday afternoon, all the villagers came to celebrate there well dressed – mostly in shining silks, with their sweethearts in their arms. They began jeering at the saint’s devoutness. He did not pay attention to their words. What’s more – he prayed to God not to attribute that sin of mocking at a saint to them.

But God has his own will. Two oxen entered the village next morning. They walked straight towards the sand-dune close to the village and began rummaging it with their long crooked horns. They continued doing so till the nightfall, till the time they went invisible in the darkness. The night came with a strong stormy wind that blew the entire loose mountain of sand over the village. Whole village including agricultural fields and water bodies were soon buried under the layer of sand. Nothing that could breathe survived.

Again in next morning, people from nearby village gathered to measure the loss and dig up the buried land. They worked all day, but at night came the storm to cover everything again. For many days they toiled hard during daytime to remove the sand while a sandstorm buried everything again at night. Finally people gave up. And the village looks like a desert even today.

German Warden Sea – Schlesswig Holstein : picture from Wikimedia commons

The Dancing Mountain-dwarfs

The story comes from Brixen, located in South Tirol of Northern Italy. This region was once under German rule. Bavarians captured the area from Romans in the end of sixth century and in tenth century it became Bishopric till it’s annexation by Austrian empire in 19th century. Post-world war boundary settlement differed but German remained first language of the region.

The old inhabitants of the city claimed the story to be authentic. It happened in the village named Glass, an hour’s drive from Wunderberg and an hour from the city of Salzburg.

A wedding was taking place in the village. A mountain man came down from Wunderberg to join the celebration towards evening. He exhorted all the guests to be sincerely cheerful. He demanded that everyone should be happy to honour the wedding celebration, and to express the happiness everyone should dance with him. None said no to him as well. He performed three dances with the bride and each of all young ladies with an extraordinary merriment, which all the guests at the wedding observed with sheer amazement. After the dance he thanked all and gifted all young ladies three gold-coins from an unknown land. Each coin would value hefty amount in the currency known to the village. Everyone understood that the coins would assure a happy and peaceful life of a Christ follower which would help ladies also baptize and educate all their children for a good pious life. The mountain man announced that the blessed people would hardly face any distress in life if the coins were used for money; only thing they would have to ensure was to live the life of a Good Samaritan, not turning too ambitious but always share their abundance with the neighbours.

That mountain man stayed with them till nightfall, and took a little amount of food and drinks from everyone so that none gets disappointed. After the celebration was over, thanking everyone again he requested the host that a boatman should take him towards the mountain across the river Salzach. Johann Ständl was a boatman who came there as a wedding guest eagerly accepted his proposition. They started sailing together. After reaching the destination, the boatman asked for reward and the mountain man humbly gave him three pennies. The boatman disdained that very little amount. However the little passenger told him not to be annoyed but keep the little amount instead. In future, those pennies would save him from his impious habits. He also gave the ferryman a small pebble saying, “You will never sink in water if you keep this tied in your neck.” The boatman came back that day. What a wonder! The pebble proved its power in the same year when the boat met an accident in the river.

The boatman followed the pious path and lived a happy life thereafter.

A medieval tale obviously created after the advent in Christianity in the mentioned region. Many of this kinds of stories praising the path of Christ and importance of following Christianity are scattered in entire Europe – giving an idea how the religion influenced people in remote villages once by proving its magical strength.

Men of the Mountain

Numerous Swiss folktales tell the tale of mountain ghosts. The stories are popular not only among the folks in the mountain region but also in the valleys till Gelterfingen and Rümlingen in Bern midland.

The mountain–ghosts are actually dwarfish mountain-men. They were shepherd by profession but their livestock does not include goats, sheep and cows. As a matter of fact they reared chamois. From chamois-milk they made cheese which grow again to make a block whole again once a piece is cut or bitten from it. Anyway the eater should not be too careless to consume the entire block without leaving leftover.  

Chamois -photo from Wikimedia commons

These mountain people lived peacefully in the quiet and innermost cliffs of the mountains. They were diligent and introvert; seldom appeared before our kind of humans. In fact their appearing indicated suffering and misfortune for other humans; however seeing them dancing on the mats was considered the forecast of a blessed year ahead.

Their lost lambs at times led them to human’s houses; also poor kids who went to forest to collect woods, at times found milk bowls or small baskets with berries left by those dwarves.

Once a herdsman was plowing his field accompanied with his servant when they saw steam and smoke on a stone wall. The servant said, “The dwarf-men are cooking! They are boiling stew I see. Also we are very hungry. Only if we had a bowlful of that!”

As soon as they turned their plough, they saw a white sheet spread before them on which a plate with freshly baked cookies was placed. The thankful men ate to their heart’s content. By the time they returned home in the evening, the plate and knives disappeared, but the white tablecloth was still there. The peasant took it to home as a memento.

Poltergeist in the Castle of Linz

The castle of Linz in Austria may be a castle museum today but it was once haunted. A poltergeist known as Chinmeke in Pomeranian region of North-East Germany lived in this castle. To keep him pleased, people had to keep milk for him every evening. One kitchen boy was not among these superstitious people. He consumed the milk. The angry poltergeist chopped him up into small pieces and kept the pieces in an earthen pot. This pot in which Chimmeke chilled his anger was a visitors attraction for long.

Friedrichstor in Castle Linz – credit Wikimedia Commons

Buttermilk Tower

This is the story of Buttermilchthurm  or Buttermilk tower. Once it was located in Marienburg in Prussia. Now it lies in Malbork area in Poland where we find ruins of a Teutonic castle too. One powerful Teutonic knight lived in that castle. He had ordered some buttermilk for himself from the neighbouring village. But the peasants jeered at his message-carriers.  Two men from the village carrying a large barrel full of buttermilk arrived at the knight’s castle only after a few days. The enraged knight imprisoned those two farmers in one tower. He kept them locked there till they drank all the buttermilk from the barrel. The tower is called Buttermilk tower since then.


We have heard another story as well: the inhabitants of a neighbouring village had to make a road to the building site spending a fortune. Through the road they carried gallons of buttermilk instead of water to prepare the lime.  The mortar they prepared this way was more than what they needed for the road. Hence a tower was built using that mortar later. Obviously the tower was named Buttermilk tower.

Story of Nickel Brothers

In the island of Rügen a deep lake lies in a dense forest. The lake is abundant in fishes, but its water is muddy, and for the same reason, one cannot fish well in the lake.

However, many years back one group of fishermen planned fishing here. They brought their boats into this lake, caught good amount of fish and at the end of the day, returned home with their fishing nets. But the next day when they came back to the lake, all the boats and barges had disappeared. One of the fishermen tried to find out what had happened. He looked around and found his boat stuck on the top of a tall tree. He screamed: “Who is the devil who took my boat on the tree?”

A voice answered from seemingly a spitting distance: “Not all the devils did that. Only I and my brother Nickel did it together!” None could see the speaker.

Obvious that none of the fishermen came back to the lake again.


Carl Gustav Carus – Mondnacht bei Rügen from Wikimedia Commons.

An apparently absurd story which reveals some historical fact related to early metal mining activities in German speaking regions. Nick derived from Saint Nicholas was considered as another name of devil. But German Nickel has added significance. German miners in 17th-18th century were keen to discover more valuable metals than the traditional gold, silver and iron. In the process of discovery, they found copper and then nickel. Both the metals were difficult to extract from its ore, but nickel was most difficult for its high arsenic content. Miners believed that devil had changed or contaminated the ore to a strange one which is poisonous. Hence copper and nickel became two devil siblings in their stories. Interesting is we don’t know existence of nickel or copper in Rügen area though there are some coal mines.

We have some more stories of the region. The ruin of Hertha castle, especially the outer wall of the castle is seen in Jasmund, which is not far from Stubbenkammer. We don’t know how many centuries old this castle is; presumably it is there from the time of heathenism. Goddess Hertha, the mother earth was once worshipped in this castle. The Goddess used to take bath in a lake there. Accompanied with her consecrated priest, she travelled to the deep, dark lake in the middle of the dense forest by a bullock-cart covered in a mystery-veil. If any unconsecrated person caught sight of the Goddess, he would have to die. That was reason all the slaves who came along to look after the bullocks were drowned in the lake after the bath-ritual was over. Hence none survived to tell us how the ritual was.

Some believe that Goddess Hertha was the form of devil and that is why the lake is still haunted.  Another belief is that the unhappy spirit of an ancient princess who was deported to that forest cause supernatural incidents in that area.  Anyway witnessing those happenings can be life threatening for humans. On the full-moon days the beautiful Goddess Hertha can be seen traveling to the lake along with her lady slaves emerging from the castle. The sound of splash can be heard and all the slaves disappear after that. Any human watching them is dragged to the lake by supernatural power.  The ill-fated person dies drowning in the lake powerlessly.

The stories of Hertha indicate the pagan past of the region seen through the eyes of later Christian inhabitants. The history of the ancient idol-worshipping inhabitants of the region was unknown, and medieval Europe did not favour curiosity. In fact in many stories of medieval period curiosity is described as reason that draws humans to life-threatening situations.  

Story of the Vibrant Alps

The Alps region that is covered with ice and debris of pebbles today looked glamorous with colourful flowers and fruit-bearing trees once. This region in Switzerland was not only beautiful and fertile, but also home for numerous legends – more than any other locations in Switzerland. Particularly Bern uplands had a popular story about mount Clariden.  

Alpine uphill was once rich and gorgeous. The cattle here thrived in all aspects; cows were milked thrice a day and each cow gave two buckets of milk every time.

A wealthy herdsman lived in one of the hills. He became too proud of his wealth. He furnished his old country home as elegant as a rich man’s and began courting Catherine, a beautiful milkmaid. Above all he built a staircase in the house with cheese, polished it with butter and washed it with milk. His love Catherine, his favorite cow Brandyl and pet dog Rhyn walked across those steps.

His pious mother did not have any idea of the sin her Alpine dairyman son committed. One summer Sunday, she thought of visiting him. She got tired on the way. Reaching her son’s home, she went upstairs and asked for a drink. The shepherd instructed his lady-love to take a milk-barrel, fill it with sour milk, sprinkle with some sand and serve that as drink. Shocked by the despicable act, the mother came out of home. She ran down the hill. Standing still at the foot of the hill she cursed at the wicked one – “May God punish you!”.  

A devastating storm rose within moments, ravaged the beautiful meadow, destroyed the cattle and cottages. All the people and the animals of the hill were buried. The spirit of the herdsman was condemned along with his property till the time they learn to handle the mountain properly again. He screamed – “I and my dog Rhyn, my cow Brandyl and my Cathy will be in Clariden forever.” But their salvation depended on one condition. Only if a milkman could milk Brandyl’s thorny udder in complete silence then only they could escape the curse. But the village destroyed and wild plants came in its place. The cow too went wild. Milking a cow that didn’t stand still became more difficult. Once one milkman had milked half a bucket-full when another man arrived there out of the blue and asked tapping his shoulder: “Does the milk foam well?” The milkman forgot the condition of silence. He replied: “Oh yes!” With his response the chance of the salvation of the cursed one was over. Also Brandyl the cow disappeared before his eyes.

Bernese Alps – From Wikimedia Commons